Book Recommendation: Who is Bharat Mata? On History, Culture and the Idea of India: Writings by and on Jawaharlal Nehru

Friday, September 8, 2023

Book Recommendation: Who is Bharat Mata? On History, Culture and the Idea of India: Writings by and on Jawaharlal Nehru, edited by Dr. Purushottam Agrawal

Jawaharlal and Kamala Nehru: A Love Story Cut Short

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Jawaharlal and Kamala Nehru: A Love Story Cut Short (In Hindi with English subtitles) 

This video is based on a small section of Jawaharlal Nehru's The Discovery of India. In this section, Nehru pays tribute to his wife Kamala. His reminiscences touch a chord with readers and fill their hearts with empathy. He candidly highlights the complexity of human relationships that we all have to grapple with from time to time in our lives.

Nehru on Buddha's Messages and their Influence on Indian Culture

Wednesday, July 12, 2023


Transcript of English subtitles:

In previous videos, we discussed Nehru’s views on the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. Nehru also held a deep appreciation for Gautama Buddha and his teachings. In the sixth century before Christ, Buddha started a new religion in India. Many people consider it a part of Hinduism as Hinduism has been a religion of assimilation. Buddhism is also an ancient Indian religion and it proposes several new and excellent thoughts and concepts and practical advice on living a fulfilling life.

Nehru writes that Buddha had a profound impact they had on India's social and religious landscape. Amid the political and economic revolutions that were shaping the country, Buddhism stirred a powerful transformation in established faiths and challenged vested interests in religion Buddha's message not only had an intellectual appeal but also had the ability to resonate with the hearts of the people. Buddha's teachings were not limited to philosophical debates but reached a level of universal benevolence and love for all beings. People from all walks of life, regardless of caste or social status, were embraced by the religion and gave a message of unity.

Buddha's teachings emphasized the importance of righteousness and self-discipline. According to him, conquering oneself is the greatest victory, and a person's caste or social status is determined by their conduct, not by birth. Buddha's teachings of compassion and non-violence struck a chord with Nehru. He emphasized overcoming anger and evil through kindness and goodness. The notion that victory over others only breeds hatred and unhappiness resonated deeply with Nehru's commitment to peaceful coexistence and harmony.

While traditional religious doctrines relied on divine sanction and reference to a higher power or another world, Buddha's teachings were firmly rooted in reason, logic, and personal experience. He encouraged individuals to seek truth within their own minds, urging them not to accept his teachings blindly but to test them as gold is tested by fire. Buddha emphasized that ignorance of truth is the root cause of all misery. He believed in the concept of universal causation, where each successive state is determined by pre-existing conditions. According to him virtue and happiness, as well as vice and suffering, are organically related. Buddha neither affirmed nor denied the existence of these concepts but instead directed attention toward what could be perceived and understood within the limits of human knowledge. He emphasized the interconnectedness and relational nature of the universe, questioning the possibility of anything existing in isolation.

According to Buddha, life is impermanent and constantly changing. Buddha's description of the river and the flame, constantly flowing and changing, reflected the transient nature of life and the interconnectedness of all things. Nehru drew parallels between Buddha's teachings and the concepts of modern physics and philosophic thought, noting how closely they aligned in their understanding of reality as a dynamic and ever-changing energy.

Buddha's method of psychological analysis, reveals a deep insight into human nature. Buddha viewed the mind as an integral part of the body, and he saw individuals as a collection of mental forces. Nehru resonated with the idea that one's life and identity are shaped by their thoughts and actions. Buddha's teaching advocated for the middle path, avoiding extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification. His eightfold path encompasses, the right beliefs, aspirations, speech, conduct, livelihood, effort, mindedness, and rapture. This path focuses on self-development and moderation.

Despite some reservations about certain aspects of Buddhism, Nehru maintained a deep respect for the Buddha and his teachings. He was captivated by the story of Siddhartha's journey to enlightenment and found inspiration in the Buddha's transformation. Nehru's travels to places associated with the Buddha's life further deepened his connection to Buddhism, allowing him to observe firsthand its influence on people and their reactions to modern life.

Nehru claimed that Buddhism had undergone certain developments and incorporated ceremonial and metaphysical elements over time, but he found solace in the peaceful atmosphere and contemplative nature of monasteries. He recognized the dignity, gentleness, and detachment from worldly concerns that emanated from many monks. While Nehru acknowledged that Buddhism could be seen as passive and pessimistic by some, he personally felt a different resonance. To him, the image of the Buddha symbolized a profound spirit, simultaneously serene and full of emotion. He believed that Buddha's teachings urged individuals not to flee from life's struggles but to face them with calmness and to recognize the opportunities for personal growth and advancement.

Nehru concludes his chapters on Buddha by writing that “the nation and the race which can produce such a magnificent type must have deep reserves of wisdom and inner strength.” This shows Nehru’s immense love and pride for Buddha as well as ancient Indian culture.

Jawaharlal Nehru on Messages of the Bhagavad Gita

Wednesday, June 28, 2023


Jawaharlal Nehru's chapter on the Bhagavad Gita in the Discovery of India provides a summary of the Bhagavad Gita, an ancient Hindu scripture that is part of the larger epic, the Mahabharata. Nehru describes the Gita as a complete and beautiful philosophical song that has remained popular and influential since its composition. The Gita is revered by different schools of thought and interpreted in various ways. It serves as a source of guidance and light during times of crisis, addressing political, social, and spiritual dilemmas.

The poem begins with a conversation between the warrior Arjuna and the god Krishna on the battlefield, just before a great war. Arjuna is troubled by the prospect of the war and questions the purpose of engaging in violence and killing his loved ones. Arjuna symbolizes the inner conflict experienced by individuals throughout history when faced with conflicting moral obligations. The Gita explores individual duty, social behavior, ethics, and spirituality. It seeks to reconcile and harmonize different paths of human advancement, such as the path of knowledge, action, and faith. The importance of faith is emphasized, and a personal god is mentioned as a manifestation of the absolute.

The Gita advocates for action in accordance with one's obligations and duties, while always keeping in mind the spiritual background and larger purpose of the universe. Inaction is condemned, and adherence to the ideals of the age is encouraged. Nehru highlights the relevance of this call to action in modern India, which he perceives as suffering from passivity and frustration. He suggests that action for social betterment and service can be seen as a contemporary interpretation of the Gita's teachings, as long as it is rooted in the spiritual ideal and performed with detachment from the results.

The Gita's message is universal and not limited to any specific school of thought. It is inclusive and applicable to people from all backgrounds. Nehru emphasizes the Gita's timeless quality, its ability to be constantly renewed and remain relevant despite the passage of time. It embodies earnest inquiry, contemplation, and action, maintaining balance and unity amidst conflicts and contradictions. The Gita empowers individuals to navigate the changing world by fitting in with it rather than seeking to escape from it. Over the centuries, Indian society has experienced change, development, and decay, yet the Gita continues to offer fresh insights and solutions to spiritual problems.

Jawaharlal Nehru on Upanishads

Monday, June 12, 2023

Dear Friends, I was away from blogging as I took a break to study literature and rhetoric. Currently, I am a Ph.D. candidate at Texas Woman's University, writing my dissertation on Nehruji's messages. I had planned to blog again after completing my Ph.D. in December 2023, but after so many years, I realized that social media and the world at large have changed enormously-- waqt badal gaya, jazbaat badal gaye! I don't even know if I am using the meme correctly!

That's why along with blogging, now I plan to make videos in Hindi related to literature and Nehruji's messages! I made my first video on Nehruji's insightful writeup on the Upanishads in the Discovery of India. It is in Hindi with English subtitles.

Nehru's chapter on the Upanishads in The Discovery of India provides an introduction to the Upanishads, ancient Indian texts dating back to around 800 B.C. Nehru describes the Upanishads as a significant advancement in Indo-Aryan thought, characterized by a spirit of inquiry and a quest for truth. The Upanishads critique the Vedic gods and rituals while emphasizing self-realization and the knowledge of the individual and absolute self. While the metaphysical aspects of the Upanishads may be challenging to comprehend, Nehru appreciates their philosophical approach and rationalistic background. The Upanishads promote the idea of unity and the interconnectedness of all beings, encouraging tolerance and acceptance. Nehru acknowledges the difficulty of grasping the Upanishads due to their unique style and distant historical context. Nevertheless, he highlights their profound influence on Indian and global thought, attracting admiration from scholars and philosophers like Schopenhauer and Max Muller.